Shopping – we love it. We do it for fun; we do it with friends. I remember in high school, doing it lots. I would call up a friend and we would want to go out, so we would go to the mall. We would hang out. We would buy clothes. We would buy shoes and earrings and boots and music.
As I got older, I shopped less with friends. I found it was more efficient to shop by myself! I wandered around stores, looking at pretty things. I would appreciate interesting paintings and cool home décor items. I would covet fancy dresses and expensive shoes, even if I did not always buy them. Sometimes I would purchase. Other times I would go overboard, and blow the bank. Mostly I stayed within my means and only bought stuff I either really really liked, or really really wanted.
Then I had kids. Suddenly I had two other little people accompanying me on these shopping trips. When my son was first born it was great, I could schlep him around anywhere while he either slept or cooed happily. No problem. We scoured the malls together. I spent more money than I should have, bought more stuff than we needed.
Once I had two kids I used shopping as an excuse to get out of the house. I would start to feel cooped up if I stayed indoors for too long. Sometimes we went out for groceries, sometimes for things for the house, and many times for shoes, boots, clothes and kids stuff.
So now my house is filled with stuff. I don’t have a big house, so I don’t have massive amounts of stuff, but each closet and cupboard and shelf and storage area is expertly arranged and organized so that the maximum amount of stuff can be packed in. For example, I have what I like to refer to as the “jigsaw container drawer”. The only way to get everything that belongs in that drawer to fit in that drawer is to precisely perform a plastic container jigsaw puzzle. If you do not know my puzzle secrets, you will never get it all in.
So what do I need all this stuff for anyway? Why is shopping a form of entertainment, and a way to spend my time?
Some people do things differently. There is a growing movement of minimalism out there. People are eliminating their possessions and getting back to basics. Some are paring back so drastically, that they possess only 100 items, like this guy (watch video). Imagine having only 100 items? I bet there are millions of people in the world who have less than 100 items, but imagine doing this on purpose? I bet I have 100 items in one cupboard alone. However these people live simply, and focus on that which is truly important – love, friends, family and happy moments.
There is another movement called the compact. It started in San Francisco, where a group of people made a pact to purchase nothing new for one year. What would that even look like? Well it would mean no more purchases of clothes, shoes and boots. New home décor items would especially not be allowed. It would mean no more fun trips to the mall, to spend money on things I think we need but mostly just want.
I know that walking lightly upon the Earth means consuming less. How can I walk lightly when I go to the mall and come home with plastic bags full of extra clothes, shoes and boots, and now also, toys for the kids? How much extra stuff do we need and why do I think we need it?
The fact is that I probably don’t need much of it at all. I need essentials, but we are not talking about essentials are we? My shopping bags are not full of essentials. I already have a closet full of clothes, shoes and boots, and so do my kids. We are talking extras here, luxuries.
If I want to get serious about reducing my carbon footprint, I have to reduce my consumption. All these items take materials from the Earth, they take carbon to produce, carbon to ship and then will probably end up in a landfill anyway, where they will release methane as they rot. So what to do?
Well I can do something about it. Are you ready? This is a big one. I will commit to not purchase anything brand new for the first three months of the year.
These are my exceptions:
- Toilet paper
- Items to make my own homemade cleaners, cosmetics and soaps
- Things for gardening/composting
- Fabric and notions to make some homemade clothes for my kids
- Used items
I want to try that on and see how it feels. I suspect my bank account will be smiling. Heck, I am smiling, because I am so excited for this challenge. I will just have to make due, and figure out a way. The time I save by not shopping, perhaps will now be spent on the floor playing with my kids. Or perhaps I will read another good book. Or perhaps I will just look outside and appreciate the birds singing in the trees.